- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2008

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — It took a little more than a month for Maryland to build a credible NCAA tournament resume.

The Terrapins needed just a week — and a trip to a well-established house of horrors — to counteract a decent chunk of their good work.

Maryland stumbled to a 78-63 loss to Miami, the second straight loss for a team suddenly left scrambling to regain the mojo of the bunch that won 10 of 12 until a recent skid.

“We’re playing good teams,” coach Gary Williams said. “You know, we’re playing pretty well. We just didn’t execute well there, and we just didn’t shoot it well. To lose to Virginia Tech in a game we probably should have won and to lose today, we certainly don’t want to do that. But they’re good teams.”

There are still enough opportunities for Maryland to re-establish the look of a team that seemed headed for a berth in the right postseason tournament not all that long ago, especially in a year with so few quality teams in the at-large field across the country.

But any reruns of yesterday would be ill-timed for the Terps (17-11, 7-6 ACC), who tripped up in several ways while losing for the third time in three visits since the surging Hurricanes (19-7, 6-6) joined the league four seasons ago.

Whereas Wednesday’s loss to Virginia Tech at least hinted at some extended quality play — the Terps dominated for the first 10 minutes — yesterday reeked of lethargic play that manifested itself in several facets.

The Terps shot 37.1 percent from the floor, their lowest total since the oft-mentioned loss to American just before Christmas. Senior James Gist encountered serious foul trouble and scored only a point in the second half. And Maryland couldn’t propel itself into the lead even after tying it three times in the second half.

“We just lost,” Vasquez aid. “The Virginia Tech loss was more hurtful than this. I don’t have anything to say. Whatever you’re going to ask me, I don’t know what to say. We just lost. That’s all I got. We didn’t play hard. We lost as a team and we win as a team. We’re still at 7-6 in the league, so we’ll see what happens.”

Anthony King had 14 points and five blocks for Miami, which has won four straight ACC games for the first time since joining the league.

If anything useful came out of the trip, it was the emergence of forward Jerome Burney as a possible reserve option. Burney had not played since Jan. 2, glued far closer to walk-ons and team managers on the bench than the scorer’s table as Braxton Dupree, Dave Neal and Shane Walker gobbled up minutes in the stead of starters Gist and Bambale Osby.

But Burney provided 12 useful minutes (four points, five rebounds) to perhaps finally etch out the role that eluded him for nearly three minutes.

“He’s really played well in practice the last two weeks and he’s really come on. …” said Williams, who used neither Dupree nor Neal yesterday. “He deserved to be in. He’s played better than the other inside players in practice coming off the bench.”

Burney’s active day helped offset Gist’s absence for all but six minutes of the second half, but other issues hounded the Terps. Vasquez pulled the Terps within 61-58, but the Hurricanes’ Dwayne Collins replied on the next possession. Vasquez then drove for an apparent basket with 4:28 left, but was called for a charge.

Vasquez missed a 3-pointer on the next trip down the floor, an errant shot exacerbated when Jack McClinton drilled a 3-pointer with 3:03 remaining with two seconds left on the shot clock to make it 66-58 and further energize the crowd of 6,058 at BankUnited Center.

Just like three days earlier, there was no comeback left in Maryland, which shot an anemic 29 percent in the second half. And it left the Terps with far less of a cushion than they enjoyed just seven days earlier.

“We have three games left,” Gist said. “It’s not like we’re out of the woods or anything. We have to win these next three games. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we have to work hard. This is what you signed up for. This is what it’s like this time of year. We just have to be ready and we just have to work hard for this.”

Terps report

Yesterday at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla.

BY THE NUMBERS

86:25Scoreless stretch for the Maryland bench. Before Jerome Burney’s dunk with two seconds left in the first half, the Terps’ last points from their reserves came when Adrian Bowie made two free throws with 6:27 left in the first half of the Feb. 16 defeat of Florida State.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Burney’s dunk was a highlight on several levels. The redshirt freshman played for the first time since Jan. 2, when he followed Greivis Vasquez’s missed drive with a thunderous follow in the closing seconds of the half to pull Maryland within 39-36. The good-natured Burney then looked around as the buzzer sounded, as if to wonder whether the points counted.

SEEN AND HEARD

It was far from a capacity crowd, which isn’t a surprise given the muggy late February day and the average attendance of 3,924 in the 7,000-seat facility entering the day. One fan, however, stood out — a student dressed in a hot dog costume. Apparently, he could not lasso some friends into taking on the much-wanted roles of “ketchup,” “mustard” or “relish.”

Patrick Stevens


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